Category Archives: Depression

The paradox of depression

Life is filled with sorrows. No matter what we do, we will in the end die. We are, each of us, held in the solitude of an autonomous body. Time passes and what has been will never be again.

Depression is a birth and a death: it is the new presence of something and the total disappearance of something. Birth and death are gradual, but the birth and death constituting depression occur at once. When depression strikes, the first thing that goes away is happiness. You cannot gain pleasure from anything and soon other emotions follow. You lose the ability to trust anyone, to be touched, to grieve. eventually, you are simply absent from yourself.

Rebuilding of the self in and after depression requires love, insight, work, and, most of all, time. Depression exists as a personal and a social phenomenon, and to treat it, one must understand the experience of a breakdown, how medications work, and the most common forms of talking therapy.

 

Excerpt from “The Noonday Demon”- Andrew Solomon

Poverty, the foe that plunges us into depression

Last week, I published a  post on how depression cuts across all social classes and the fact that no one, whether rich or poor is free from depression. After a couple of shares and discussion on the topic, I received a feedback on the matter that poverty is the issue in Ghana and not depression. The comment may have been meant as a joke but I still decided to focus my next article on the relationship between poverty and depression, and also to clear the myth that our only problem is poverty. Poverty is, in essence, the beginning of all our woes, ultimately the enemy pushing many of us into depression.

It is a well-established fact the relationship between poverty and depression; with socioeconomic factors like owning properties, the stability of one’s income, ability to secure basic necessities and the ability to keep a job playing a major role. The presumed stresses of the rapid development of our towns into cities and changes in our culture have also produced negative effects on both the physical and mental health of the average Ghanaian. Unfortunately, the mental health concerns—although an important part of daily life and the well-being of human beings —have been overtaken by other health problems, of most concern infectious diseases.

In the past, researchers claimed depression wasn’t present among Ghanaians but in those times there were more complaints of anxiety and tension, feelings of guilt and self-reproach. Physical symptoms such as irregular heartbeats, burning sensations and difficulty falling asleep were also common. However, these symptoms were not considered to be signs of depression because our knowledge and understanding of depression were limited. In a recent study by the Kintampo Health Research Institute, depression was identified as the leading mental health problem in Ghana contrary to the belief that madness is.

Depression is a relevant mental health concern and should not be neglected. It affects the quality of our life (e.g., low marital quality, low work performance, low earnings), increases our risk of a wide range of chronic physical disorders, and contributes to early mortality due to suicide.

 

Further reading
1. U M Read and V CK Doku, (2012), Mental Health Research in Ghana: A Literature Review. Ghana Med J., 46(2 Suppl): 29–38.
2. Heather SipsmaEmail author, Angela Ofori-Atta, Maureen Canavan, Isaac Osei-Akoto, Christopher Udry and Elizabeth H Bradley, (2013), Poor mental health in Ghana: who is at risk? BMC Public Health, 13:288

 

Irrespective of your social class, you are not spared of the rigors of depression

I have heard a number of critics say depression is an ailment of western developed countries and third world countries should not concern themselves with it. After all, they are faced with other pressing issues. I believe this assertion is false, and this perception stems from the fact that there are more research and discussion on the topic, and as a result, there are more treatment options available in developed countries. This only implies that you have more people reporting to facilities for diagnosis and treatment, which advertently increase the number of cases statistically.

Something can also be learnt from the cultural determinants of disease complaints. For most Africans, particularly, Ghanaians, clinical depression simply doesn’t exist within our realm of possibilities. We are supposed to be strong, cheery people. And our culture favours certain patterns of illness such as malaria, fevers, food poisoning, body pains, and others rather than attributing depression to be the basis of our “not-feeling-good”. Plus anything else we can’t explain is attributed to witchcraft or bad lifestyle choices. And in most instances, these generalized conclusions mask the depression leading to its misdiagnosis.

“Depression is the result of a genetic vulnerability, which is presumably evenly distributed in the population and triggering circumstances, which are likely to be more severe for people who are impoverished. And yet it turns out that poor people are mostly not being treated for depression.” –Andrew Solomon

Whether rich or poor, no one is spared of the challenges of life. The difference may be how we respond to these life events as and when they occur. Depression cuts across class boundaries, but its treatment doesn’t and this variation may make recovery difficult for a poor person who cannot afford treatment.

Is depression a flaw in love?

As creatures of love, we inherently long to love and be loved. To be loved by that special someone and reciprocating with your undivided attention, or affection for a special cause forms a pillar in our life and can make our existence meaningful.

This longing if not satisfied can be a source of weariness that has the potential to affect the quality of our life. And unfortunately, unrequited love doesn’t die, it’s only beaten down to a secret place where it hides, curled and wounded. Federico Garcia Lorca rightly put it this way, “to burn with desire and keep quiet about it is the greatest punishment we can bring on ourselves”.

In his book, the noonday demon, Andrew Solomon writes, “Depression is the flaw in love. To be creatures who love, we must be creatures who can despair at what we lose, and depression is the mechanism of that despair.” Isn’t it amazing how everything becomes easy and tolerable when it is something we love to do and how we overlook the imperfections of someone we love? Sigmund Freud, the father of the psychoanalytic theory of depression, in explaining the cause of depression described it as an unconscious conflict between human instincts and the human conscious. And in other to avoid such potentially damaging conflicts, there is the need to develop defence mechanisms.

Although love may not be protective against depression, it cushions the mind and protects it from itself. This love may be directed to self, work, God or anything of interest. These passions can furnish the vital sense of purpose which is the opposite of depression.

 

Identify your object or being of love and when you do, let us know how your relationship developed and progressed. Others will be interested to know how you did it. Send us an email at tok2someone@gmail.com.

Adapting won’t change your identity, instead, it will build your resilience

I always find myself admiring the changing colors of leaves at the onset of fall. The sight of leaf colors ranging from green to red, yellow, orange, purple and several others is very beautiful. After all, we all love beautiful things and we realize how much color these leaves bring to life.

On my way to the university on this particular day, while admiring the sight of the changing leaf colors, a thought struck me. It wasn’t for the reason of beauty that plants changed their leaf color in fall. Maintaining the green color from chlorophyll is energy demanding, and in fall when there is less sun, plants have to trade off their green color for less energy requiring pigments so as to conserve energy. This change doesn’t make it less a plant, and is a necessary adaptation for the plant’s survival. One thing is constant and that is the changing environmental conditions.

And so it is with our lives. Life altering events are constant and for every phase of life we enter, we encounter different circumstances. These events usually require that we make adjustments to suit the time. Adapting to these changing circumstances doesn’t in any way change our identity, rather it helps us build resilience. These necessitated changes  question our preconceived notion of who we are and how we are supposed to act. Finding the balance between what to let go and what to hold on to (like the plant losing its chlorophyll to conserve energy) sets us on a path to achieve satisfaction in the present situation and builds our resilience, which may be a buffer against the development of anxiety and stress, both of which contribute to depression.

Changes to build resilience may include positive emotions and optimism, humor, cognitive flexibility, cognitive explanatory style and reappraisal, acceptance, religion/spirituality, altruism, social support, role models, coping style and exercise.

Seek help if you are depressed. You are not alone and you will find a network of support if you seek help. Talk to a trusted person about how you feel. You can also share your experiences with others to inspire them and keep going on. Send us a message at “tok2someone@gmail.com

 

Your abuse of substances is worsening your depression and so is your depression.

It is very easy and tempting to turn to drugs and addictive behaviours when anxiety and depressive symptoms come knocking at your door. These momentary pleasures will do the magic of making you forget your struggles for a brief moment. But once their effects wear off, you will need even more doses to produce the same effects they had on you yesterday. And before you realize it, you are dosing large amounts of these drugs becasue the little amounts can no longer produce the irie effects and guess what, you are gradually becoming an addict.

But the story doesn’t end there. You abusing these drugs doesn’t take away your root problems, they just shadow it and the day you try to stay sober, thinking everything is fine BOOM!!!! everything is in your face. Your symptoms are even worse than you remember and on top of it, you are an addict. WOW!, what a cool way to try to treat depression.

Although it is very common to find depression and addiction coexisting in depressive individuals, it is quite hard to determine which condition precedes the other. However, it is clear that depression and substance abuse feed on each other. The presence of either condition makes the other even worse. R.E Meyer in an effort to describe the relationship between these two proposed: Depression may be the cause or result of substance abuse; Depression may alter or worsen substance abuse; Depression may coexist with substance abuse without affecting it, or Depression and substance abuse may be two symptoms of a single problem.

In the end, even if depression made a person prone to addiction, it is important to remember that, curing just the depression won’t necessarily put an end to the addiction. Once a depressed person has addiction problems, he or she has two problems to deal with and as such treatment should be targeted at both issues.

Triggers of a depressive breakdown

After a friend asked me how she could tell what exactly triggers a depressive episode and if an inferiority complex could contribute to depression. I remember telling her inferiority complex could contribute to the onset of an episode if, events capable of causing depression had accumulated in the course of life. I suggested; one way was to take stock of recent life events that may contribute to triggering an episode.
I recently came across a literature and would like to share what I learnt with my readers.

The onset of depression is a cumulative effect, having an uncharacteristic behaviour that is influenced by hidden variables. In the face of a major depression, one tends to look back for the roots of it; wondering whether it was always there or whether it came on suddenly as food poisoning. Having a breakdown when you have experienced trauma or when your life is a mess is clearly understandable. But having an episode when everything seems fine and you are finally in a good place is confusing. Depression does not always stem from recent life events. Factors leading to a breakdown gather over the years, usually a lifetime.

Severely threatening life events usually trigger initial breakdowns, the second episode, somewhat less; and for subsequent episodes, life events may play no part at all. It then becomes random and endogenous, dissociated from life events. (Look up The stress of depression on some factors that contribute to the dissociation of episode from event triggers).

Physical trauma is among the primary triggers for psychiatric trauma. We all encounter periods of physical and psychological trauma and chances are high, that people with a significant vulnerability will relapse in the face of a problem. So do not consider intolerance for extreme pain, whether physical or psychological as a weakness of character.

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